Today I’m really excited to share with you a project I recently completed. It was one of the most challenging I’ve undertaken thus far – an entire first floor remodel at the same time. But, it was also incredibly rewarding because my style and the clients’ were so in sync. They were heavily involved in the design and selection of materials, and the project was a true collaboration between us as well as the contractor and vendors.
As you’ll see in the “before” photos below, the aesthetic of the home didn’t work for my clients and their two small children at all. But, before we could update the look of their house, we had to address some issues with its plan and functionality.
The whole project really started as a kitchen remodel, but as you know, in an open plan house, a kitchen remodel isn’t just a kitchen remodel. Once we started working on the kitchen, we had to address all the spaces it touched. Before the project was over, we had done something – large or small – to every room on the first floor.
Keep reading for a look at each space and how we made it work for our clients’ lifestyle.
As I mentioned, improving the kitchen was at the heart of this project. The old plan was cramped – a U-shaped design with a raised bar height peninsula. The fridge location impeded the circulation from the garage and basement. With one tiny window over the sink, it didn’t get very much natural light.
The short wall cabinets failed to maximize the potential storage. And, the transition from wood flooring to tile was just weird and chopped up the space visually.
We removed the pantry so that we could extend the kitchen, move the refrigerator, and create a large island for the sink, dishwasher, trash, and microwave.
My clients wanted to bring in a ton of natural light, and I can’t say I blamed them. They have a beautiful wooded view, and the old kitchen felt totally disconnected from the outdoors.
We added two large windows flanking the range and placed the sills at counter height. We removed the old French door to create a banquette and added three more large windows above it.
In the pass-through to the dining room, we moved a base and wall cabinet in favor of a tall pantry cabinet. It looks more attractive from the dining room and replaces the storage they lost by removing the walk-in pantry.
Now for the after photos!
When I look at the before and after, it’s really hard for me to believe this is the same house.
The white oak floors are the largest material element on the main level and were our starting point for many of our other material selections.
We chose a creamy white for the kitchen perimeter and a pale warm gray for the island. We incorporated touches of black throughout the entire first floor to keep the design from feeling too traditional. I love the contrast and little bit of edginess that it adds.
The countertops are a marble looking white quartz by Caesarstone, and the backsplash is a tumbled Carrara marble. My clients picked through double the number of boxes that we needed, selecting each tile by hand to make sure the backsplash didn’t end up too gray.
The banquette is a cozy spot for this family of four to eat their daily meals or enjoy a cup of coffee.
The Laundry/Mud Room
Is it weird that the laundry room is my favorite room in this whole project? When I first saw it, the room was totally non-functional with a too small closet taking up far too much of the floor space.
Like many families, my clients enter their home through the garage door the majority of the time. Before the remodel, they had nowhere to drop bags, take off shoes, or hang coats.
I knew that if we could maximize the tiny laundry to incorporate a “mudroom” of sorts by building custom lockers, it would add so much functionality. And, hopefully make the start and end of every day that much smoother and easier.
This is really the only photo I look of the laundry room because it was so tight. The entry from the garage is on the right, and the pantry that we removed is on the left. You can see the coat closet straight ahead.
To make the space as open and functional as possible, we removed the closet and switched the swinging door to a pocket door. We relocated the sink to the right of the washer and dryer, freeing up an entire wall for lockers. And, we made the window bigger to match the new windows in the kitchen and bring in more light.
For the cabinetry and trim, we used the same pale gray as the kitchen cabinetry. We use the white trim color from the rest of the home on the walls and ceilings and brought in black with the hardware.
We repeated the white oak from the flooring in the kitchen on the shelving and bench tops and brought in the same quartz for the tops and same marble backsplash. The floor is a brick look ceramic tile set in a herringbone pattern.
We were very intentional about creating flow throughout the home by repeating design details as well as materials. We used a vertical paneling detail on the back of the island and repeated it on the back of the mudroom built-ins. You’ll see it make another appearance on the vaulted ceiling of the sun room.
I love how this laundry room proves that you don’t necessarily need more space to add storage and function to your home.
The Living Room
As you can see on the floor plans, the living room is completely open to the kitchen, so we needed to address the design of it at the same time.
When I first visited the home, I immediately noticed how large the fireplace felt in proportion to the room. It was completely out of scale.
We removed the wainscot paneling in favor of a neutral stacked stone with a limestone mantel. By using a new linear gas insert, we were able to reduce the overall depth of the fireplace even more. Eliminating the hearth freed up even more floor space.
We made one other architectural change in the living room. We took out the French doors to the sun room, raised the header, and created a large cased opening. This seemingly insignificant change dramatically improved the circulation through the two spaces and opened up floor space for furniture in the sun room.
The Sun Room
The sun room sits at the back of the house and has large windows that provide an excellent views to the back of their lot which is semi-wooded. In the Fall, the view out of these windows was incredible with the orange and red foliage.
But, the room itself was totally lacking in character. In addition, the large sliding doors to the deck made it difficult to use this room for TV viewing, which is its primary function.
Sun Room Before
We added much needed architectural character on the ceiling with a ridge beam and car siding, painted the same creamy white as the trim work throughout.
By taking out the sliding door in favor of a single glass paned door, we created the wall space for a flat screen TV and media center to hold books and toys.
The matching sofas are upholstered in a kid and pet friendly performance fabric, and the large leather ottoman is perfect for putting up feet but can also serve as extra seating when entertaining large groups.
The Powder Room
I don’t have any before photos of the powder room, which was previously not a powder room but a full bathroom on a first floor with no bedrooms. Both the clients and myself thought that was strange and not necessary, so we removed the tub/shower.
We used the extra space for 14″ deep tall cabinets that can be used as storage for both extra toiletries but also all the miscellaneous items that are usually kept in extra kitchen or laundry cabinetry.
We designed this furniture style vanity with operable drawers and an open shelf below. We hand selected a gorgeous piece of natural marble for the top and backsplash. The floor is a tumbled black marble hex mosaic that pulls out the deep gray veining in the countertop.
The Dining Room, Entry, & Piano Room
Last but not least, we made over the front of the house in varying degrees. The outdated design of the staircase got a total update. In the entryway, we removed the two arches. The one shown on the left is to the dining room and had large bulky columns below. We took those out in favor of a large cased opening like the one living room but preserved the wainscot and coffered ceiling
It didn’t take much beyond a fresh coat of paint, new light fixtures, and a new rug to give this dining room a completely new look. We worked with our clients existing furniture, which now looks like new in its fresh surroundings.
Originally, we wanted to open up the stairs as much as possible, but it wasn’t feasible structurally. We were able to increase the opening on the railing side by two steps, which really helped make them feel lighter.
We installed new solid white oak treads to match the floors, black iron balusters, and a white oak railing. The runner is natural wool in a soft gray.
Finally, we updated the piano room with a new rug and light fixture. We replaced the dated French doors with clear glass panes and upgrade the door hardware to match the rest of the doors in the home. Not pictured, we also replaced the front door and light fixture in the entryway.
As I turned to close the front door after wrapping up the photoshoot at the end of a long day, I turned back and was struck by the light streaming in from the new windows. I captured this quick photo below with my iPhone, and I love how it shows how the relationship of the spaces to each other.
One of our top goals for this remodel was to lighten up the space both literally and through the use of color and material. I’m happy to say that we rose the to challenge. This is absolutely one of my favorite projects to date.
No design project is possible without the support and collaboration of multiple team members, but especially so for a project of this size. We could never have achieved such a fabulous result without Ben Kellen of Hickory Construction in Ames, Sarah Wolfgang from Cabinet Boutique, and StoneHouse, Urbandale.
Olson-Larsen Gallery generously provided all of the artwork seen throughout.
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